And the bride wore … leather? Vanessa Williams didn’t follow a traditional bridal dress code for her July 4th wedding to Jim Skrip. Instead, the actress wore two custom designs by Carmen Marc Valvo for her big day — a sleek skirt and top combo for the ceremony and a gown covered in gold leather petals for the reception.
“It almost looks like it’s metal, but they’re little petals made out of leather [sewed] on top of organza,” Williams tells PEOPLE exclusively of the ivory design (right photo above) she wore for her first dance with her new husband. “It was magnificent. I felt like an Egyptian goddess and that was exactly the theme I was going for.”
Williams met Skrip in Egypt, so it was important to the actress to celebrate that memory throughout the day. The couple, both 52, got married in Buffalo, New York — another locale that has meaning to them, since Skrip is from there and so is Williams’s mother.
So it’s no surprise she turned to a local Buffalo jeweler for some bridal accessories.
“My engagement ring is a Buffalo jeweler called Bomi — Jim had it personally designed with a lotus leaf carved in the back behind the stone, and then I went back to them, and I got three beautiful necklaces for my daughters to wear in the wedding,” Williams shares. “They also gave me jewelry so when I walked down [the aisle], I had a beautiful drop pearl champagne colored earrings, and when I did my costume change, I wore Gabriel and Co. They were gold and diamond chandelier earrings, plus, some gold and diamond necklaces to make it very Egyptian like.”
She adds: “I really got a chance to bring my look and my people and my vibe to Buffalo, but I also got a chance to incorporate what Buffalo has to offer and wear a local jeweler. It was just really, really amazing.”
Skrip’s wedding band is a family heirloom belonging to his grandfather, who also got married at Saint Stanislaus church in Buffalo.
“He’s a traditional kind of guy and it fit,” she explains. “It was in his mother’s possession, and he just kept it because he liked it. It’s rose gold, fit him perfectly and I said, ‘Let’s just do that.’ I didn’t want to engrave anything because god forbid anything falls apart.”
As for her beauty look, Williams says that, unlike most brides, she opted for a look that’s not typical for her. Her makeup artist Sam Fine gave her a bold blue smoky eye.
“I looked in the mirror afterwards and it was completely dark blue exotic smoky eyes with long, straight Egyptian hair — it was just so exotic and so unlike me,” she says. “One of my friends who was watching my kids getting gorgeous said, ‘How are you going to top the kids, your kids are beautiful,’ and then I walked in and they go ‘Okay now, she had a plan.’ I just went for it. Sam went for it with make up and Chuck Amos did my hair. I had my glam squad who had done me for years.”
And her husband was blown away by both her looks.
“Honestly, when I saw Vanessa walking down the aisle, I didn’t even notice her dress. We locked eyes and I got caught up in the moment, full of happiness and joy,” he tells PEOPLE. “When I finally noticed the dress, it was perfect for Vanessa: sleek, simple and sexy. She then had another surprise for me: she did a quick change into another beautiful gown for the vows ceremony. She was stunning!”
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–Brittany Talarico, with reporting by Melody Chiu
For all the photos and details from Williams’s “perfect” day, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.